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Get Fat, Live Longer - An Update

Friday, August 14, 2009 Posted by Travis Saunders

Two weeks ago I wrote a post discussing a recent Margaret Wente editorial in the Globe and Mail, in which she completely misinterpreted a new study in the journal Obesity, and suggested that we people should gain weight to live longer.  The study itself reported that in a representative sample of nearly 12,000 Canadians, individuals who were overweight at the start of the study actually had a lower risk of mortality than their normal weight peers, but did not suggest that people would live longer if they gained weight.  The study was interesting and worthy of discussion, and for the full details on both the study and Ms Wente's editorial, I urge you to visit my original post here.

Ms Wente's editorial generated a lot of interest outside of Obesity Panacea as well, including among other writers at the Globe and Mail.  Alex Hutchinson, who writes the bi-weekly Jockology column on exercise and athletic performance in the Globe, contacted me shortly after the Wente editorial began making its way around cyberspace.  Alex and I had an interesting discussion about the science of the journal article itself, and he went on to speak with Steve Blair, a legend in the fields of obesity, exercise and health.  The result is this week's Jockology column, in which Alex discusses the original Obesity study, and whether or not he (a normal weight, former elite distance runner who represented Canada at the International level) should gain weight to live longer.  Now while Peter and I do our best here at Obesity Panacea, we have a limited readership.  So it is phenomenal to see a nuanced article in one of Canada's most widely read newspapers dispelling some of the nonsense that has been floating through cyberspace for the past few weeks. And on a personal level, it was also a lot of fun to be interviewed for a newspaper like the Globe!

The article itself is very well written, and is summed up succinctly in the closing statments:

Ultimately, what the Statscan research tells us is not that weight is irrelevant - after all, those with a BMI above 35 were 36 per cent more likely to die than normal-weight people - but that your focus should be on the ongoing process of living healthily, rather than the potentially misleading endpoint of reaching a certain weight.

I couldn't have said it better myself!

To enjoy Alex's article (and send it to anyone who forwarded you Ms Wente's article a few weeks ago), please click here.

Have a great weekend,


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3 Response to "Get Fat, Live Longer - An Update"

  1. Anonymous Said,

    I thought the waist circumference cutoffs were 94cm for males and 80 for females?
    Which criteria do you guys use and why?

    Posted on August 14, 2009 at 2:44 PM

  2. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    @ Anonymous:

    Currently, the waist circumference cut-offs for abdominal obesity are 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women - this is similar to the 30kg/m2 cut-off for obesity according to BMI.

    The values of 94cm for men and 80 cm for women sort of represent the "abdominally overweight" - equivalent to the 25kg/m2 BMI values. I used quotations in the previous sentence as this is not a commonly described thing.

    Most disease risk alogrithms use the abdominal obesity cut-offs (102/88cm).

    On this note, a bonus question to our readers: What do these waist circumference cut-offs represent or how were they derived? It may surprise you...

    Any guesses?

    Posted on August 14, 2009 at 3:19 PM

  3. darya Said,

    Woohoo! Great job!

    Posted on August 18, 2009 at 6:30 PM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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